When King John of England signed the Magna Carta in 1215, it had to be a shock to some of the people who lived under his rule. They had grown up believing that the king had the divine right to do pretty much whatever he pleased, but the upper classes forced King John to offer concessions in certain areas. I’m certain that some people then believed that what was being done to their king was wrong, because they believed what they had been taught — that he had the right to rule.
When slaves were freed after the War Between the States in this country, we’re told that many of them were hesitant to accept the freedom and responsibility that had been given to them. Many of them continued to live on the same plantations — doing the same work for the same people — after they were free.
People have always had trouble with change. Even when change is good for them, they have trouble accepting it. We know that even hostages who have been taken by criminals come to identify with their captors and sympathize with them. This is called the Stockholm Syndrome, named after the first case in which it was identified and studied.
If people have always been this way, why would we assume things are any different today? People accept the existence and rightful supremacy of government power because that’s what they’ve been taught and it’s what they’ve always lived with. Today, we laugh at the idea of swearing allegiance to a king. We are saddened by the thought of slaves who didn’t want to leave their slaveowners. And we typically think the Stockholm Syndrome couldn’t happen to us.
But most people in the world are victims of a political version of the Stockholm Syndrome. We sympathize and identify with the state that seeks to assert its control over us. A few of us are realizing this and breaking free, but most are still deeply enmeshed in bowing before a king and kissing his ring.
For those of us who see that breaking the power of the state is a moral issue, it’s easy to think that if we just explain things to people, they’ll understand and agree. But they won’t. For them, it’s a deep emotional issue. Change isn’t going to happen for most of them. This is one of the many reasons that we have to find our own solutions — outside of the influence and control of those who are still bowing to the “king” in Washington.
Not all of us can leave where we live now, but some of us might be able to. That’s why we have to keep thinking about the free cities and free nations of the future. There are many different models to experiment with, but the first step is accepting that most of “the king’s subjects” won’t be coming with us, no matter what we try.